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CRM Segmentation for Arts Marketers: Setting Up Your Database

Museum patrons sit on a bench looking at a wall of black and white photos of people.


The last post in this series discussed how box offices can help arts organizations better understand their patrons by collecting behavioral information about them. With the proper methods in place to collect box office data, it’s important for organizations to implement a CRM strategy. Segmenting patron data allows arts marketers to create personalized, targeted communications that speak to different patron groups’ needs and interests. Reaching patrons on a closer level helps marketers break through the noise of all the other entertainment options their patron base has within reach. Making those connections and tracking them through a strong CRM strategy is a gateway to growing a more engaged audience base, which spurs loyal, returning attenders and donors and organizational growth. 

With an organization-wide plan to store and leverage this information, marketing teams can send focused communications and increase ROI from their audience outreach efforts. Beyond improved return from their marketing efforts, having a single segmented database helps organizations become more efficient.

Why a CRM strategy?

Before diving into best practices to organize a segmented database, it’s important to understand why organizations need a unified CRM strategy to begin with. 

Customer relationship management in the arts stems from behavioral data collected at the box office. This data helps arts marketers create a full view of every patron. Arts marketing, fundraising, and ticketing professionals from across the organization can access the patron data and derive insights from their activity. 

Without consolidating this information, organizations run the risk of creating silos between departments, information hierarchies and a general loss of efficiency. Meanwhile, having a 360-degree view of patron behavior empowers organizations to make data-driven decisions about how to interact with their customers. With the right communications tools, organizations can reach patrons at the right time with the right messaging —  increasing the likelihood of patrons to engage, reattend, and donate. 

Related Reading: The 7 Principles of CRM for the Arts

Benefits of a single customer view

Having all of a patron’s behavioral information in one place creates multiple benefits for an organization, namely making data-driven decisions and reporting on the results. While arts organizations traditionally lag behind other industries in doing this, having a full patron view can reverse that trend.  

Arts marketers can use this 360-degree customer view to conduct a touchpoint analysis of their patrons. A touchpoint analysis audits every interaction an organization makes with patrons and identifies opportunities for the organization to improve the customer experience. 

A touchpoint analysis can include patrons’ attendance frequency, their response to past marketing campaigns and their giving history. Organizations might have traditionally recorded these behaviors on separate systems, but having all of their data in one place helps arts marketers make more informed decisions and improve patron engagement. For example, understanding how many shows patrons typically attend before donating can help an organization create more fitting donation asks. Fundraisers can catch patrons at the right moment in their experience, increasing the likelihood of a donation. Being able to report on all of these factors at once can help organizations measure the success of their asks and determine how to hone their future communications. 

Creating an organized data strategy

With a full range of patron details available in one place, arts marketers have virtually endless options for organizing their data. Still, creating high-level segments can help the whole organization stay aligned when they’re creating strategies around different patron groups. Here are some recommendations for segmenting a 360-degree database to create effective workflows and interact with patrons:

  • Create segments for different levels of patron engagement. Define criteria to differentiate a minimally-engaged and highly-engaged patron. This could be determined by the number of events they attend over a given period, or their interactions with marketing communications from the organization.
  • Segment donors based on their current and potential value. Communicating with donors on show night or in marketing communications can be a challenge if there’s a lack of transparency on their giving history. Make it easier for the whole team to understand donors’ needs by creating segments to call out high-value donors or those with specific communications requirements. That doesn’t mean existing donors are the only ones who should stand out: create segments for who has propensity to give so the organization does not miss out on opportunities to make that ask, even if it’s for a $5 add-on donation at the box office.
  • Segment based on practical information. Think of ways that flagging information on a patron’s record can help the organization stay on the same page about interacting with them and improve their overall experience. Could creating a lapsed donor or subscriber segment drive more targeted campaigns to get these patrons to re-engage, or inform the box office on asking them to renew? Could flagging first-timers help the team provide helpful information to make their first visit go smoothly?

Putting a segmented strategy to work

Having these segments in place can help arts marketers create communications that are timed according to each patron group’s shared experiences. Using the examples above, segmenting on different levels of engagement can inform how frequently to email different patron groups. Sending regular emails to frequent attenders might be fitting because they’re highly invested, while sending fewer communications to infrequent attenders might be more effective for keeping them engaged rather than unsubscribe. The different donor-level segments could inform what kind of thank-you messaging to send those donors following their gift. Likewise, the lapsed subscriber segments can drive campaigns asking those patrons to renew.

Having these segments intact can also help organizations report on their efforts to measure their effectiveness. Marketers can look at sales and attendance growth for each segment, as well as their open and click rates with each campaign and how their communications influenced donations. Additionally, marketers can track how patrons move between lower and higher levels of engagement, loyalty, and transactional value as a result of their campaigns. 

Communicating with patrons starts with knowing them well, segmenting strategically, and creating data-driven plans to reach their patrons. Having an organized single-view database and using that information effectively is key to organizational growth and sustainability. It will also help organizations determine which potential sustainers to engage with.

Next in this series, arts marketers can explore how they can leverage their segmented database to make data-driven marketing decisions.